The history of Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo is dating back to 1710. That year Peter the Great presented the estate on the hill to Catherine, his beloved wife from very modest origins. In 1717 construction of a rather modest manor house consisting of 16 chambers, began. The palace as we know it today is completely different. Peter’s daughter Elisabeth inherited the manor from the parents. When she came to power she decided a complete reconstruction was needed. The grandiose size palace with azure walls and fanciful gilded ornaments was erected for Empress Elisabeth by the exuberant court architect Rastrelli in 1750s. Basically many alterations were done before that time. but certainly Rastrelli was the one who defined it’s image. The palace has three floors, its façade is 306 meters long. Catherine Palace continued to be the summer royal residence under the other Russian rulers. The Romanovs, all up to the last Russian royals, spent their summers here. After the October 1917 revolution the palace was transformed into a historical and social museum. It was believed the palace was lost forever after the Second World War, when only ruins were left here. For several decades the team of restorers and scholars were recreating this dazzling beauty. Today Catherine Palace is the most desired attraction for each visitor of St. Petersburg.
The State Rooms of Catherine Palace
The ceremonial reception halls, facing the front yard, were on the second floor and followed one another in a chain along the same axis. This is called “The Golden Suite”. Such arrangements are typical for the baroque style. This suite of rooms made a striking impression on the guests. Not only the walls but the doors were decorated with gilded ornaments. The opulent carvings were most luxurious in the rooms where the court was waiting for the Empress to arrive. These were the Antechambers, Cavalier’s and Main White dining rooms. The most crowded festivities were held in the Grand Hall. After the main receptions the smaller parties for the most intimate circle of friends were arranged in the smaller-size rooms. The Amber Room, Crimson and Green Pilaster rooms, Portrait hall were good for these friendly meetings. The golden suite is linked to the private living quarters. They were called “The Small Suite”. This included the private rooms of Paul, the son of Catherine the Great, and his wife Maria, and the chambers of Catherine’s grandson, Alexander. These were the chambers, which Catherine the Great wanted to redesign in classical style, and this task was done by Charles Cameron, the architect from Scotland. Catherine the Great did not appreciate Rastrelli’s work, she believed baroque was outdated. even given this, she did not change the Golden Suite, leaving this as it was for the diplomatic visits. Catherine’s own rooms in the palace are not restored yet, but we can see the restored halls of Paul and Maria. The Green Dining Hall is especially elegant, designed in soft green and rosy hues, decorated with white sculptures, rectangular reliefs and round medallions. Classical design of this room reminds us about Ancient Greek and Roman homes of aristocrats.
The Grand Hall of Catherine Palace
Francesco Rasstrelli, the court architect of Elisabeth I, was the true genius of Russian baroque. The Grand Hall, meant for the most important events, is something surreally beautiful. It is the spacious two-storey room about 50 meters long. This hall looks gigantic because of the big number of mirrors. They hang on the walls and alternate with double windows, reflecting in one another and making up the illusion of endless space. The plafond is depicting the triumph of Russia, glorifying Elisabeth and her wise reign. Under Empress Elisabeth, the most important state receptions, full-dress dinners, fancy-dress balls and dances were held here. Life of Elisabeth resembled one big never-ending party. Something was arranged in this magnificent hall daily. During the war the Nazis have burned this hall down. All mirrors and inlaid parquetry are restored.
This is no doubt the most spectacular hall in the palace. The amber panels framing the hall were given as a diplomatic gift to Peter the Great by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I. Empress Elisaveta Petrovna decided to decorate one of the halls in the central suite of her countryside palace with the amber panels. The project was challenging for the architect Rastrelli, but he managed brilliantly. The multicolored amber panels, tints ranging from milky-white to dark-brown, are hanging on the walls. There are elaborately embellished mirror panels in between them. Four Florentine mosaic pictures, representing allegories of five human senses, futher enhance the unforgettable impression from this interior. Panels of amber were looted by the Nazis. They were taken to Konigsberg, and in 1944 have disappeared. During four decades several missions were organized to discover the Amber Room, and all was in vain. In 1980-1990s painstaking complete restoration has taken place. The skilled restorers have brought Amber Room back to life.
Кавалерская и белая парадная столовая
Две столовые расположены по сторонам от Парадной лестницы. Кавалерская столовая имеет архитектурный декор, характерный для стиля барокко с обилием позолоченного орнамента. Большая изразцовая печь, покрытая изразцами, исполненными по образцу дельфтской керамики, восстановлена после войны. О предназначении комнаты напоминает фигурный стол, сервированный предметами из трех орденских сервизов, заказанных на фабрике Гарднера Екатериной II. Фарфоровая посуда украшена изображениями лент и орденов Святого Георгия, Андрея Первозванного и Святого Владимира и предназначалась специально для торжественных ужинов, куда приглашались кавалеры этих орденов. Белая парадная столовая украшена картинами Иоганна Гроота – живопись этого мастера посвящена теме охотничьих трофеев. Фигурный стол, стоящий в центре комнаты, сервирован посудой, принадлежавшей императрице Марии Федоровне. Посреди стола находится интересное украшение – «сюрту де табль», изображающий фарфоровую копию одной из беседок Екатерининского парка.